The Comedy of Errors
Marriage serves a variety of functions in The Comedy of Errors. It’s the stuff of heartache through separation (as with the separation of Egeon and Aemilia), but staying together in marriage can be as much of a heartache as being kept apart. Adriana and E. Antipholus struggle in a marriage that they value, but have to work hard to keep afloat. Adriana is suspicious of E. Antipholus (given her husband’s fondness for a courtesan), who is quick to fly into a rage against her. Marriage is definitely difficult, and how either gender should operate in marriage is the subject of much conversation. The dominant and only present marriage of the play, between Adriana and E. Antipholus, seems to be managed by careful compromise. A more idealized version of marriage is suggested in the potential match between Luciana and S. Antipholus. Luciana’s main concern is learning to submit, properly and entirely, to her husband, and S. Antipholus is looking for someone to guide him and complete him.
Questions About Marriage
- Luciana represents an ideal view of marriage in which a wife patiently bears her husband’s flaws and mistreatment. Does Luciana think her view is realistic or practicable? How does Luciana account for the fact that she isn’t married? Do we get a hint that even she knows she must change her views on marriage in order to get married?
- Why does S. Antipholus offer to marry Luciana? Does he actually love her, or would he just be using her in marriage to find his own identity? How does her response reflect what she thinks of his marriage proposal?
- Is marriage in the play presented as an equal partnership? Think of all the play’s couples – how do their relationships deal with the compromises marriage demands of both genders? Do partners seem to be willing to compromise for each other? Do partners use or manipulate each other?
- Adriana and E. Antipholus’s marriage is definitely less than ideal, and Egeon and Aemilia’s marriage nearly ended in disaster. At the end of the play, S. Antipholus is still trying to marry Luciana, but we don’t actually see the marriage occur. Is Shakespeare suggesting marriage is not a panacea, or a cure-all way to resolve things? Is he suggesting that S. Antipholus’s marriage to Luciana wouldn’t solve any of S. Antipholus’s actual problems?
Chew on This
In The Comedy of Errors, marriage is central to having a complete identity, especially given Shakespeare’s emphasis on the message of a couple’s unity as related in St. Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians.
The Comedy of Errors presents equality as the ideal relationship between men and women in a marriage.